Google's New Ad, Organic Layout Could Cost Advertisers

Years ago, when it was more difficult to tell the difference between a paid-search advertisement and an organic listing, advertisers and their agency partners would complain about false clicks -- unintentional clicks that advertisers had to pay for based on someone mistakenly clicking on an ad.

Today the search industry is dealing with something called purposeful dark patterns, which could become a way for searchers to click on a link they might not have intended to click on.

Last week, Search Marketing Daily asked a Google spokesperson whether tests of the new ad and organic search layout produced any unintentional clicks that could cost advertisers money, but did not get a response.

Although it may be too early to tell, if the listings take too long for someone searching to identify as an advertisement, this could send the search engine industry back in its design of organic and paid ads -- not shopping ads, where the advertisements serve up in boxes and carousels, but the paid text listing ads.



It might make more sense to eliminate text paid-search ads, but I doubt that will happen soon because of the industries that advertise in search, where it doesn’t make sense to add an image.

On Friday Google said it would begin testing additional variations of layouts in desktop search based on early feedback from users around the favicon -- a tiny brand or company image -- and black ad-label rollouts. The new look launched on mobile in May 2019, in an effort to guide users through information on the web.

The name of the website and its icon serve up at the top of the search results to help anchor each query search result.

In a podcast published Monday, eMarketer forecast analyst Eric Haggstrom and principal analyst Nicole Perrin talk about Google's redesigned search results page. 

Perrin thinks the new layout looks like a dark pattern and that it seems more likely that someone searching would click on an ad, but says “the labeling is kind of fair” because the ad logo “pops.” She said ads might be more difficult to identify, but there is clearly a label.

This layout and labeling technic is not limited to Google. Microsoft Advertising labels on Bing have some of the same issues. On Bing, however, the “ad” label serves up in a much lighter black text color and not in bold.

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